In Parts 1 & 2 of our series, we used Darwin’s Change Management Platform© to measure our hypothetical organization’s change-readiness before implementing our scoped, balanced change management plan. Even measuring stakeholders’ opinions and knowing the majority of employees favour the proposed change is no guarantee of success. We still need to align all available resources to make sure our change succeeds. Enter the middle manager…
Middle Managers – A “Make or Break” Stakeholder
Middle managers, the layer between executives and junior employees, play a critical role in determining change management success. Middle managers are privileged to critical information that could empower or disengage our stakeholders. They often have the most direct influence on the employees we are seeking to change. Thirdly, their attitude towards a given change initiative – whether they embrace it, dislike it or ignore it – sets the tone for entire departments. They are “make or break” stakeholders with access to important communication channels, power and influence.
Creating the Middle Management Network
Middle managers are also a difficult audience to capture. A 2014 Harvard Business Review study found them to be among the most disengaged people in the workforce. They feel overworked, under-appreciated, stuck in their roles, plagued by poor leadership and have few opportunities for promotion. Turning middle manager into positive change advocates takes three things:
1) Give managers easy-to-use resources
The Darwin Change Management Platform© creates a Manager’s Toolkit template for practitioners to complete and distribute to business unit managers impacted by the change. Organizational change managers complete the template by adding:
- A brief PowerPoint presentation highlighting the change initiative purpose, milestones and project benefits
- An elevator pitch (see our previous blog “Step 2: Develop” for creating your compelling vision)
- Speaking points to provide greater context
- An FAQ (generated and collected by Darwin from stakeholder comments)
- Tips for holding a productive Stakeholder Session
- A Checklist to mark the above tasks completed
2) Offer to help
Providing busy managers with a well-constructed Toolkit does not guarantee its information will be shared. You must also offer to help managers by presenting the Toolkit contents to their employees and/or facilitate their stakeholder sessions. One way to preface this conversation is to ask managers when they are scheduling their meeting so that you can ensure you are available to assist.
3) Reinforce and make managers accountable
As managers complete their checklists, have the project sponsor thank them for their support. This small reinforcement is a powerful way to influence positive behaviour while creating momentum for your change initiative. Alternatively, let your project sponsor know which managers have not responded, scheduled or held their special “Toolkit” meeting. The project sponsor has the opportunity to use her or his influence to hold middle managers accountable and to align the organizational leaders solidly in support of the change initiative.
Aligning middle managers behind the change requires knowing your audience. These folks tend to feel overworked, stressed and disengaged. Providing them with the exact materials needed and an offer to help will bring many on side to support the change. The project sponsor will hold the rest accountable.
In Part 4 – Prepare, we talk about the importance of making a big deal out of your Go-Live day.